In addition to the portfolio reviews, celebrity photographer meetings and general debauchery in New Orleans last weekend, Lori Vrba and I set out to do a show. But not just any show – a light your pants on fire blow-out event that people would be buzzing about so loudly the buzzing would become a roar. And by golly, we did it.
I feel I need not be modest about this one. After all, Lori made the work, and the work is transcendent. It is personal and emotional and but universally relatable. It kind of makes you want to cry a little in that laughing through your tears kind of way. And it really, really, really makes you wish you had taken the photographs or had even a smidgeon of the vision it took to be able to take them.
This show was a test of faith from day one. Lori and I were talking about both being in New Orleans for PhotoNOLA, and she said something about how we should make the most of it and put together a show. And then the synapses started firing, and the “wouldn’t it be cool if. . .”s started coming out, and before we knew it, the idea of a one-night only solo exhibition of the work in an unforgettable location was born. As is my way, I jumped first and looked later.
Luckily I was able to recruit Edward Hebert, the gallery director for A Gallery for Fine Photography in New Orleans to curate the show. Eddie is a gem, there’s just no other way to say it. Not only did he make a wonderful selection of images, he put us together with William German and Mauricio Colmenares who generously offered to let us use their historic home in the Treme neighborhood for the event.
In terms of unforgettable locations, this is it. It is only partially restored, and the interior is breathtaking. The setting so perfectly fit Lori’s work, it was as if one was created for the other.
But with this perfect setting came a whole host of challenges. Because it is not a traditional gallery setting, there was virtually no lighting. And because of the delicate nature of the (very old) walls, we had to consider how the work would be hung. There was also the neighborhood to think about – let’s just say it’s “pre-transitional”. Finally, would anyone come?
Lighting and hanging. . . Master craftsman and all-around talented and fantastic guy, Michael Dulude, built every frame for the show and outfitted each with its own light. He and his electrician friend Joey flew to New Orleans to install the show. Michael Dulude may as well have angel wings. Getting people there. . . We decided to have invitations made, and I mailed them out to everyone participating in PhotoNOLA, as well as other New Orleans art patrons. The hope was that hand-addressed invitations would make the event stand out beyond the standard listing in the PhotoNOLA events guide. Pre-transitional neighborhood. . . We hired a security guard and figured New Orleans people would be fine with the area and everyone else wouldn’t realize it was a little “rough” until they were already in the cab pulling up. Best not to worry about that one. And after being there for a few days hanging the show, Lori was practically high-fiving neighbors on the street and lending people sugar.
So after a two-day drive in a cargo van for Lori, days of installation for Angel Dulude and Joey, and some pre-event cocktails to calm the nerves, we were ready to rock. And rock we did. The turnout was beyond our wildest hopes. About 300 people came to listen to old New Orleans jazz music, drink Sazeracs, eat pimento cheese sandwiches and view the gorgeous work. Lori put her heart and soul into every image, every detail, every minute, and it paid off. Watch out world.